I shot this Oklahoma Living cover in nearby Guthrie in a kitchen. I used my Einstein strobe to add a bit of pop to the image.
For the October issue of Oklahoma Living Magazine, I not only photographed the cover, but also wrote the feature story about People’s Electric Cooperative electrical lineman Larry Shellenberger, who worked at PEC for 53 years. I photographed Larry at PEC’s headquarters in Ada, Oklahoma. Larry’s secret to 53 years on the job? He LOVES his job!
In the summer of 2013 I did a project for the Oklahoma Department of Tourism where I photographed people at various state parks across Oklahoma. One of those projects was to photograph golfing at Lake Murray State Park. The Tourism Department provided me with models. I am not a huge golfer, although my wife and I play every now and then, but not all that well. We love the exercise and usually like to walk the course while playing. The course at Lake Murray is beautiful with rolling fairways, wooded areas overhanging the course, and well maintained greens. The Lake Murray State Park Airport is adjacent to the golf course, so it is easy to fly a private plane into the park, play a round of golf, eat at the nearby restaurant, then fly home.
Last year I wrote and photographed a story called “A Day in the Life of a Lineman”. I spent the day with Chad Compton, a long time electrical coop lineman from Northfork Electric Cooperative in Sayre, Oklahoma. I have done a lot of work photographing and writing about the electric utility industry and always enjoy hanging out with hard working linemen.
One thing that really amazes me when I work with linemen is that their work seems like that of a NASCAR pit crew. Everyone is in synch, they have worked together typically for years, and everyone knows their job. When a crew pulls up to a downed pole or a new service installation, they all know what needs to be done and they do the work with minimal talk about the job. Oh, they might talk about baseball or hunting or fishing, but no need to talk much about the job they are doing because they are well-trained and practiced. Many crews have worked together for years so they know how to work together like a well oiled machine. Tools fly through the air without a word. Nobody asks “Can you hand me a drill?” The drill just magically appears at the right time. Pretty cool if you ask me.
I started out the morning well before daylight when the crews began filtering into Northfork Electric Cooperative’s shop in Sayre. The sun was just starting to brighten the eastern sky over the high school football field as workers started rolling in. After a quick planning and safety meeting, we were loading the trucks and heading out to the first job. Below is my story along with some additional pictures from my day with the lineman crew.
Below is a slideshow of the images from my day with a lineman.
Bill and Susan Dragoo and I had just started on our trip to drive the Trans-America Trail for our story in Oklahoma Today Magazine when we ran across the Buffington Hotel in Westville, Oklahoma. Not exactly the Ritz Carlton, although back in the early 1900’s the Buffington was quite a swank hotel for eastern Oklahoma it seems.
“We gotta stop!” I said to Bill over the walkie talkie.”
Bill had traveled with me enough to know that I like to stop at the craziest places to meet unusual people.
When I travel for a story, I love to stop and visit with local people. I feel this adds “color” to the travel story. I want to meet local folks, ask them questions about the history of the location, and hopefully photograph them for the story. Other photographers often ask me how I talk complete strangers into letting me take their photo. In simple terms, I just ask, although as most photographers know it is not quite that simple. I like to approach folks without my camera and talk to them first, find out about what they are doing, before asking if I can take a picture. Once approval is given then I go to my car or bike and grab a camera.
As we poked around the front of the old hotel in downtown Westville, an elderly gentleman in overalls stepped out and said “hi”. Bud Rose is the long time owner of the Buffington Hotel and after telling him about our story, he invited us inside.
The Buffington Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and Bud has the certificate certifying this designation. It seems Bud lives in the downstairs part of the hotel and has for some time. He is semi-retired. His buddies from around Westville stop by on a regular basis. On warm summer days they congregate outside under a “patio” to drink clear liquid from a mason jar and reminisce about old times. On cold rainy days, they move the party indoors around a big pot belly stove. Bud invited Bill to join him at the stove and partake of the clear liquid. Bill aat with Bud and talked a bit but passed on the unknown fire water in the mason jar.
Later Bud took us upstairs to explore the hotel – flashlight required.
You won’t find experiences like the touring the Buffington Hotel by flashlight in any travel guide! You gotta get out and talk to folks to discover hidden gems like this.